I was a student of author Frank Viola at Brandon High School in the 90s. His class was my favorite of all. I took psychology from him and joined the Interact club which he sponsored. I also was part of the Fellowship of Christian Students that he sponsored.
Viola led me to the Lord. He did the same with other students also, baptizing some of them too.
I was one of the people who attended his Friday night Bible study group. I remember it was over 50 students in a crowded living room in Brandon. Students came from all over the area, not just from Brandon, but from other counties too. We’d sometimes stay at his house until 1am as we talked about the Lord, prayed for each other, worshipped. We worshipped a lot. It was an awesome time of many ‘aha’ moments and life changing events.
It was hard finding a spot on the floor because the couches and chairs were all taken up. The whole experience was amazing to me.
Note: Author Frank Viola doesn’t run this blog.
If you have a question for Frank that doesn’t appear on that page, email it to TheDeeperJourney @ gmail.com
King David is honored in Scripture as being “a man after God’s own heart” Acts 13:22. This has puzzled many Christians because David’s life was riddled with so many failures. I suspect the reason why the Holy Spirit regarded him to be a man after God’s own heart is because David caught a glimpse of the Lord’s ultimate purpose. And he was willing to pay any price to fulfill it. En. David was occupied with building a house for God (2 Samuel 7:2ff.; 1 Chronicles 29:3; Psalm 132:3-5).
As I look back on my Christian life over the past 32 years, I can sum up my entire spiritual experience in one sentence: I’ve been on a quest to find the church after God’s own heart.
What exactly is a church after God’s own heart? Well, it’s certainly not a church that is void of failures and shortcomings. King David teaches us that lesson quite well. But he also teaches us that the church after God’s own heart that has caught a glimpse of the Lord’s ultimate purpose and is willing to pay any price to fulfill it.
In March of 2006, I was invited to speak at a conference for Christians who gather outside the traditional church. The conference was held in Portland, Oregon. It wasn’t terribly large. Approximately 120 people attended. More than 20 simple churches and house churches were represented.
It was the most unique conference in which I had ever spoken. The audience was unique. The messages I delivered were unique. And the group interaction was unique. (By “unique,” I mean it differed from any public event I’ve attended before or since.)
What is contained in these pages is the heart of what I shared during that conference. It also includes some related thoughts that have been on my heart for many years, but have never been put in print. All of it is best captured by the phrase, “the church after God’s own heart.”
One man, a former pastor from Spokane, Washington, described the event like this:
“This gathering was a turning point in the lives of many of us who attended. We were deeply challenged. Our understanding of the ‘glory and the gore’ of growing to know Jesus together was deepened, as Frank shared out of his 20 years in intimate church life.
In the course of the weekend, our eyes were opened to see that New Testament Christianity is nothing less than the corporate pursuit of the Person who is passionately pursuing us. With a burning heart and great Scriptural clarity Frank explained that, ‘We live by the Lord, who dwells in our brothers and sisters, and the Body of Christ is a real thing that we must actually experience.’ Relating rich and unforgettable stories drawn from his experience in true Body life, Frank taught us that “the divine nature is biological in that, when we meet Jesus as the Head, we still need to meet Him as the Body. We must have the other half of Jesus Christ.”
As Frank Viola described how this can actually work, he made us hungry to experience the real expression of the corporate Christ in a Biblical, unreligious setting, where believers can actually get to know each other in the Lord and practically discover the spiritual priesthood for which they were born again. Having drunk deeply of the anointed vision and revelation of the Bride of Christ, we left this gathering with great hope in our hearts that God truly is restoring New Testament church life today, and that simple churches with the Holy Spirit as the main leader really can happen.”
Mentors are like heroes. Young men need them, but they are exotically rare. Since I’ve been a Christian, God has seen fit to put five men in my life who would become my mentors.
I’ve had a personal relationship with all of them, except for one. Each of them, in their own way, is responsible for a certain aspect of my ministry today. I will speak about two of them later on. But one of them deserves honorable mention right now. For in a number of ways, he inspired this book.
He was a talk radio show host. I was in my early 20s when I discovered him. In my own estimation, the man was a pure genius. A genuine “one of a kind.” As far as the gift of communication goes, he was without peer. As far as his gift for story-telling, I’ve never met nor heard anyone who could top him. His ability to mesmerize an audience was unmatched. His skill at debating issues was unbeatable. His knack for creative humor was untouchable. If verbal acumen was measured in square miles, he would be Alaska. He possessed a brutal sincerity that was both refreshing and arresting.
He was the most gifted communicator I had ever heard, before or since—bar none. He was a legend. A talk radio giant. And he was my hero. My “radio hero,” as I’ve come to affectionately call him.
I would faithfully listen to his show each day as I drove home from work. It was a constant parade of unpredictable wit, drama, and provocative discussion. His smoldering talk style provided gripping theater of the mind. Many afternoons I would pull up in my drive-way . . . frozen. I simply couldn’t open the door to leave the vehicle. My radio hero held me spellbound for hours on end. If there is such a thing as “radio magic,” he possessed it.
“Entertained” is too insipid a word to describe my experience as I listened to this man. Mesmerized comes a little closer.
He was thoughtful, shamelessly provocative, and often confrontational. He refused to fit into anyone’s mold. His opinions were unique and seamlessly thought out. He constantly challenged the status quo and forced his listeners to reexamine their beliefs. He was controversial, but always intriguing. As a result, he was venerated and vilified, loved and loathed, hailed and hammered.
While some saw him as little more than a raging provocateur, his demand for intellectual honesty made a profound impression on me. He was a master at skewering sacred cows . . . even his own. He provoked laughter, reappraisal, and sometimes fury from his listeners. But he always left them thinking and rethinking.
I examined how he spoke. I observed his strategy in debate (as I said, he was unbeatable). But most of all, I sat in rapt attention as he delivered his extraordinary monologues. They were his trademark.
His monologues permeated with gritty intellectual honesty and bristled with extraordinary insight. They were clever, poignant, and peppered with lashing wit. Sometimes edgy, sometimes enraging, periodically sentimental, but always fascinating.
I studied them. Not the content, but the technique. (I often disagreed with his suppositions. So it wasn’t his beliefs that inspired me. It was how he communicated them.) Later, I discovered how he crafted his monologues and gut-wrenching stories.
Sometimes his monologues would run one hour straight. Sometimes two. On occasion he would give a three hour monologue. Yet time stood still for me as I sat captivated in my car listening to this incredibly gifted man speak passionately about an issue that he felt important. It’s no wonder his ratings were off the charts. In those days, he was “king of the hill” of talk radio, by far and away—the unparralled ruler of the airwaves. (He retired years ago.)
He was a man of immense and extraordinary talent. To put it in a word, he was brilliant. There has never been another like him. And I suspect there never will be.
One of the many lessons my radio hero taught me during his meteoric career was this: That if you want people to listen to your message, then you have to cut your stomach open, heave your guts on the table and let people pick through them.
Though I’ve always found that metaphor a tad too graphic, it makes the point. People are more apt to listen to those who are willing to reveal something of their personal lives.